Rockies manager Jim Tracy could become a Colorado lifer. He would love that, and general manager Dan O'Dowd would love that, too.
Tracy has received what O'Dowd called an "indefinite" contract extension. The new deal at the very least adds the 2013 season and then what both parties hope are many more years beyond that.
"Quite honestly it could be for whatever number of years Jim wants it to be for," O'Dowd said in making the unique announcement Monday before Tracy began his regular post-practice media session following the opening spring training workout for Colorado's pitchers and catchers. "We understand how difficult it is to build a culture in a world that's valued only on performance, but we believe we're going to build a culture of value and we believe that Jim's the right person to build that value. We believe in him completely with what this stands for."
Tracy, who is so at ease and feels he can be himself with the Rockies, insists his contract status was the furthest thing from his mind.
"It's very gratifying and it means an awful lot to me," Tracy said. "They have made it very comforting because of the way they have worked with me going back to 2009, they are allowing more and more for me to just be who I want to be. The last thing I wanted, and the last thing that I want, is for the focus to be on me, because I think that's wrong. That's a disservice to your players. That's not what I'm about."
O'Dowd said all they needed was a handshake — no formal paperwork or press release. Tracy's previous three-year, $4.4 million contract took him through this season, so he eventually must formally sign a new deal to make this move official.
"An extension beyond this year," O'Dowd said. "It's a different world we're living in. I know it's a world where there's got to be a number and there's got to be a term ... and we'll talk every year and we'll continue to move forward that way, but to me the appropriate term is indefinite."
Tracy also has managed the Pirates and Dodgers, but considers his third stop as a manager the best fit for him. And a gentleman's agreement is perfectly fine by him.
"The key to this thing is we're authentic relationships around here where it's a handshake," said O'Dowd, who when asked to clarify the parameters of the agreement noted: "What a handshake should signify is trust. The gist of the conversation and understanding is that it's indefinite. To limit it to 2013 would not do justice to Jim. Basically what I'm saying is I should never have to have this conversation with you guys again."
The 56-year-old manager said he would like to one day retire with the Rockies.
"This is actually where I'd like it to end. When the time comes for it to end, this is it, this is the place," he said. "I have a contract, and I'm completely flattered with what it is that I'm doing and the way that I'm treated. Why would you want to go anyplace else?"
Tracy was called into a meeting last week with front office members at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Tracy is 230-210 since taking over as manager from Clint Hurdle in late May 2009, when he took over a team that was 10 games under .500 (18-28) with the second-worst record in baseball. He wound up winning NL Manager of the Year honors after leading Colorado to a 74-42 record and the NL wild card.
The Rockies went 73-89 last year for a disappointing fourth-place finish in the NL West. That came a year after an injury-plagued season in which Colorado lost 13 of its final 14 games but still finished a respectable 83-79.
Tracy took last season personally after the Rockies made headlines for their big-spending ways over the winter — and he doesn't want to go through that again with another talented roster.
"It took a step backward last year and that hurt more than anything," Tracy said. "I feel like I can do better at it. There's part of me, to an extent, that feels I let them down last year."
The Rockies know their man on the top dugout step is all about winning, and doing it the right way. Players will certainly appreciate the stability of their skipper, too. Tracy dearly loves his players.
"We believe Jim has the kind of characteristics that go so much deeper than wins and losses, and we certainly feel like we're going to get a lot of wins, too," O'Dowd said. "There's two types of people in our game, survivors and difference-makers. Survivors try to hold onto their jobs, and difference-makers show up every single day with intent to try to create the kind of authentic relationships based upon substance, and Jim falls in that category. It's really hard to find those kind of characteristics in life in general, not just in professional sports. We know what we have in Jim and Jim knows what he has with us."
Tracy is 792-782 in 10 seasons as a manager.